Treasury says country has long played ‘prominent role’ in allowing Palestinian militant group to access funds.
A top US official said Washington was “profoundly concerned” about Turkey’s role in facilitating Hamas’s access to international finance, underscoring how the war in Gaza is fuelling rising tension between the Nato allies.
Brian Nelson, the US Treasury’s under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the anxiety stemmed from the fact that Turkey had historically played a “prominent role” in allowing the militant group behind the October 7 attack on Israel to access funds.
“We are profoundly concerned about Hamas’s ability to continue to fundraise or find financial support for its operations for potential future terrorist attacks here in Turkey,” Nelson said at a press briefing in Istanbul on Thursday.
Nelson’s warning highlights how the Israel-Hamas crisis is driving a wedge between Washington and Ankara. The US has strongly backed Israel’s right to self-defence and sought to cut off Hamas’s access to finance. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has by contrast hit out powerfully at Israel, calling the Jewish state a “war criminal”, while referring to Hamas as a “liberation” movement.
Funding for Hamas came primarily through financial support from Iran, its investment portfolio and fundraising from international charities, Nelson said.
The US had not detected additional Hamas money flowing through Turkey since October 7, according to Nelson, but the country had played “a prominent role in [past] fundraising streams and . . . that Hamas is going to seek to take advantage of that fact as it raises additional funds”.
Turkey’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the US concerns regarding Hamas.
The US last month imposed sanctions on three individuals it said were Turkey-based Hamas operatives who help run the militant group’s investment network. The Treasury has previously implemented sanctions against a Turkish real estate investment company it alleged was controlled by Hamas.
Nelson said that while Erdoğan’s public support for Hamas made it unlikely that Turkey would sign up to US sanctions on the group, Washington did expect Turkey to utilise its own powers to target Hamas’s funds because of its “capacity for terrorism”.
Nelson said he also raised concerns with Turkish counterparts that Russia is gaining access to western-made parts for its war machine via Turkey.
His comments come after the Financial Times reported that Turkey’s trade in these items, including microchips and optical scopes, with Russia and suspected intermediaries had boomed since the war in Ukraine began last year, deeply frustrating the US and other allies including the EU and UK.
“We’ve seen, unfortunately, in the last 18 to 24 months a six-fold increase in the re-exportation of those dual-use components of the highest concern through Turkey,” Nelson said, adding that “we’re looking at using all of our authorities as creatively as possible to get after this challenge”.
The US has already imposed sanctions on several companies it said were involved in the re-export or transportation of high-priority battlefield items.